In recent years, many olive orchards, which are a major crop in the Mediterranean basin, have been converted into intensive or super high-density hedgerow systems. This configuration is more efficient in terms of yield per hectare, but at the same time the water requirements are higher than in traditional grove arrangements. Moreover, irrigation regulations have a high environmental (through water use optimization) impact and influence on crop quality and yield. The mapping of (spatio-temporal) variability with conventional water stress assessment methods is impractical due to time and labor constraints, which often involve staff training. To address this problem, this work presents the development of a new low-cost device based on a thermal infrared (IR) sensor for the measurement of olive tree canopy temperature and monitoring of water status. The performance of the developed device was compared to a commercial thermal camera. Furthermore, the proposed device was evaluated in a commercially managed olive orchard, where two different irrigation treatments were established: a full irrigation treatment (FI) and a regulated deficit irrigation (RDC), aimed at covering 100% and 50% of crop evapotranspiration (ETc), respectively. Predawn leaf water potential (ΨPD
) and stomatal conductance (gs
), two widely accepted indicators for crop water status, were regressed to the measured canopy temperature. The results were promising, reaching a coefficient of determination R2
≥ 0.80. On the other hand, the crop water stress index (CWSI) was also calculated, resulting in a coefficient of determination R2
≥ 0.79. The outcomes provided by the developed device support its suitability for fast, low-cost, and reliable estimation of an olive orchard’s water status, even suppressing the need for supervised acquisition of reference temperatures. The newly developed device can be used for water management, reducing water usage, and for overall improvements to olive orchard management.
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